Plan now for an edible landscape this growing season

February 22, 2012
Bachelor buttons have edible flowers that can be eaten or made into tea.

When horses are made to wait, they often get impatient and chew on the bit in their mouths. This “champing at the bit” soon became “chomping at the bit” and is familiar to every gardener who awaits spring.

If we cannot plant the garden, we can at least plan it. Get out the seed catalogs and make a shopping list. Try to find easy-to-grow, carefree plants that are not only edible but beautiful.

A mixed border or cottage garden has always been one of my favorite garden themes. Rather than have neat rows and everything in its place, it is fun to plant everything all over the place.

You can have your gardens do double duty by sneaking edibles in with the flowers and flowers in with the vegetables.

A good place to start your edible landscaping plans is with herbs. Herbs can be very expensive to buy at the store, so a gardener can save large amounts of money in very little space.

Try planting sage, rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano in with your flowering perennials. The different textures of the leaves and the heady aromas of the herbs’ oils will add to the landscape and to any cut flower bouquets.

If you have room for shrubs, you can opt for berries without thorns such as blueberries and elderberries. If thorns are not a problem or if, indeed, you prefer something to keep intruders at bay, then add raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries.

They all bloom in spring and yield large amounts of food in a little space. Like herbs, berries are often very expensive to buy, so your crop will be doubly valuable.

Edible flowers are a natural for edible landscaping. Annuals such as nasturtiums are easy to grow, and the leaves and flowers add a peppery bite to salads or cream cheese sandwiches. Interplant edible flowers such as bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus), carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus), calendula (Calendula officinalis), and bee balm (Monarda species). Bee balm makes an excellent tea with a flavor similar to Earl Grey.

Even ground covers can be edible. Try planting easy, low-growing plants such as lingonberries, strawberries, American cranberry and wintergreen. Wintergreen is a great plant because not only does it stay green all winter, but also you can eat both the leaves and the red berries. Low-growing herbs such as chamomile and thyme will even spread casually where planted. Plan to tuck some rhubarb into the flowerbeds. The huge leaves will add a dramatic look to your landscape.

You can have an edible landscape that will provide you with free food or a vegetable garden that will also give you free flowers.

So plan now, and when spring does arrive, you will be chomping at the bit and feeling your oats.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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